The Prince of Wales has launched a pilot scheme to encourage tourists to support the work of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, which helps those who live and work in rural areas. The scheme was launched at a reception held at The George Hotel in Penrith.

Backed by major tourism businesses across the UK, the pilot scheme will encourage tourists across the country to contribute towards projects supported by The Prince’s Countryside Fund. The projects deliver help to hard pressed rural areas in Britain.

His Royal Highness thanked tourism businesses and officials attending the launch for their enthusiastic support of the pilot which will start in time for the main 2014 season.

“I have always wanted to engage with the tourism and hospitality sector to see whether it might be possible to encourage visitors to support and help maintain the countryside they value so much.  That is why I am absolutely delighted to have the backing of the remarkable group of companies and organizations involved in this pilot project.

They see the point of what I am trying to do and share my belief that we must secure the future of our rural communities – for this generation and those yet to come.  This pilot, which I hope will be taken up by other like minded companies in due course, will enable visitors, collectively, to make a real difference to the future of rural areas.” 

Tourism businesses already committed to the scheme include Cottages4you, which books some 12,000 self-catering holiday homes, the British Beer and Pub Association representing 49,000 public houses and individual breweries such as Adnams of Southwold and Shepherd Neame from the South East. The Caravan Club, Duchy of Cornwall Holiday Cottages, Farm Stay UK, Feather Down Farm Days and The George Hotel are also taking part in the pilot.

Visitors who make a booking, or pay for a meal or purchase will be asked if they would like to make a small donation at the point of sale.  Small amounts of money, add up to significant sums, which will then be used to support projects including apprenticeships for budding hill farmers, training for young people to gain employment in the rural economy, community transport schemes in isolated rural areas  and projects supporting community assets such as pubs, post offices and village shops.

Andy Wood OBE, Chief Executive, Adnams said: “I am delighted to be taking part in this project. Our countryside is vital to our business not only for producing the raw ingredients in our beer but because we appreciate that visitors enjoy our products surrounded by the Great British Countryside.  One of the ways we will be supporting the scheme is by giving our customers the option to give a few pennies when they pay by card using the digital charity box, Pennies.  We hope that by encouraging small donations we can raise a considerable amount of money to keep supporting our rural communities.”

The Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, Dawn Howard, added: “Rural tourism is a vitally important industry to the countryside. When people visit the countryside on holidays or short breaks it is essential to remind them that farming and rural life is often precarious and needs funding and support to help it thrive. This scheme will raise money to support our projects and will also help spread awareness of the importance of rural issues. We are delighted that these eight like-minded organizations recognise the value of the countryside and we are grateful to each of the companies taking part for their enthusiasm and willingness to work with us.”

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